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Irish outfit is ready to fight for Rio Olympics dream

By Graham Hamilton

The World League 3 series in Antwerp has been up and running since Saturday but Ireland finally start their campaign today when they take on Great Britain (11.00am BST).

Craig Fulton's 18-man squad - nine of them from Ulster - have been using the last few days to finalise preparations but also to study their opposition in those opening games.

The top two seeds in their pool, Great Britain and Belgium, drew 2-2 while Malaysia beat China 3-2 and the Green Machine are well aware that they'll have to punch above their weight if they are to make it to the Rio Olympics.

A large Irish support has already arrived in what is Belgium's second largest city which is best known as being the centre of the world diamond trade but also for its fries, chocolate and mussels.

Temperatures are averaging around 18 degrees but are expected to rise as high as 25 for the remainder of the series.

The hockey venue is on the outskirts of Antwerp in Brasschat, a 40-minute bus journey, and is the home of the KHC Dragons.

The Irish, ranked to finish seventh in a ten-team tournament, need a top-five finish in a busy programme which will see them play seven games in a 13-day period - a schedule that would have professional footballers complaining bitterly.

It's a hard task, and today's opening game is made more intriguing by the fact that the Gleghorne brothers Mark and Paul are in opposing teams and that GB have three Ulstermen in their panel. But if Ireland can get a positive result today, it could provide the catalyst for their other pool games against Malaysia, China and Belgium to help achieve their Rio dream.

TODAY'S PROGRAMME

Pool A: India v Poland

Pool B: Great Britain v Ireland (11.00am); Belgium v China.

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